(Excerpts of Dr Friday’s Budget Presentation)
We on this side of the House have a plan to foster participation by all in the re-orientation of our economy, and provide the means for everyone to participate in the socio-economic development of our country.
One way of doing that is to reduce the tax burden from our people and find ways to raise revenue from international activities and non-residents. The government has failed to grasp this concept and the only thing they can take from our proposals was to misrepresent our proposals; for e.g. descending to scaremongering about CBI. That is a vulgar interpretation of the broader need to re-orient our economy, just as other OECS countries have done, and others around the world continue to do in various forms of the programme.
We understand the government’s opposition. It indicates a complete lack of understanding of the structural problems in our economy. It shows a desire to keep our people poor, even dirt poor, and a plan that makes the country a beggar’s paradise. We are better than that and deserve better and a majority of our people agree with us, as shown by our majority support during the last general elections.
We have a plan to create a friendlier and dynamic investment climate in our country with focus on private individuals creating businesses and jobs; a plan in which our people have a bigger stake in the economy, providing not just labour but also capital, managerial functions and entrepreneurship – as Mitchell’s NDP did when they undertook land reform and promoted landownership and, in the process, transformed many people from labourers into farm-owners, which led to more productive and financially beneficial agriculture, and transformed lives in a positive way throughout the country. A part of our plan is to foster an entrepreneu-rial spirit, especially in our young people and provide the institutional support to help them succeed, e.g. by re-establishing and improving a development bank to serve businesses, farmers, fisherfolk and others with affordable credit and other forms of institutional support.
I know the government’s under-standing of entrepreneurship is the PRYME programme. But there needs to be follow up with supporting infra-structure to assist with marketing, financial management, quality or anything to make the ventures profitable and successful. Currently, there is no follow up. We also need to introduce the right intervention and encouragement in the school system to change the mindset of our young people, so that they become more business oriented and create an entrepreneurial culture.
Self-employment is currently listed in the top ten industries for employ-ment in the world. This will comple-ment the YES programme, but will also yield better results than that programme, which focuses only on getting a job and, in any event, pays the young people below the poverty line wages. This is another example of misalignment with what is required to have our young people become productive and indispensable partners in national development.
Re-develop Ottley Hall Marina
When the ULP were in Opposition, they spoke about Ottley Hall all the time; to criticize and demonize Sir James Mitchell and the NDP. They said during an election campaign, belatedly, that they would fix it and get it working. I did not believe them then, and the Budget says nothing about Ottley Hall, so I was right not to believe them.
I have spoken about it many times because I know it can work and provide over 100 good jobs. I have a plan, based on a vision, of how the shipyard could be and how it could drive the economy of West Kingstown and South Leeward. We have enough boats in our domestic fleet to keep Ottley Hall busy throughout the year.
I have spoken to people in the shipping and yachting industries. They tell me that Ottley Hall is what they need, and they can’t wait for it to be working properly. So, what is the Government doing? Still spiting Sir James Mitchell and the NDP by trying to make the project look like a failure? But the failure is the ULP government failing to do what is necessary to make it work. In 2019, the government finally said they would lease it and make it work. But nothing has happened so far.
Meanwhile our boat operators can’t dock and maintain their boats there because the government allowed the shipyard to mash up. The situation is worse for boat owners since Trinidad and Tobago is closed because of the pandemic. They can’t take their boats there for service.
Ottley Hall can create many good jobs. But this government in the past and present, and likely the future, has no plan in place for the Ottley Hall Marina; the minister has no role for it in his economic diversification and job creation plan. I do not see any allocation in the Estimates for fixing the dry dock at Ottley Hall. This means they do not intend to redevelop it; they intend to kill it! So sad! So pathetic! So corrupt!
We will develop our fisheries to benefit our people, including larger boats for tuna and other longline fishing; invest in new equipment for our fisheries; reintroduce a credit system for fisherfolk; review marine resource management to ensure sustainability; improve ship registry to generate more revenue and jobs and help seafarers obtain certificates for jobs on ships, (complete Maritime & Hospitality Institute).
We will encourage organic farming; encourage farm tourism to generate additional income for farmers; make more agricultural lands available to farmers; develop overseas markets for agricultural produce; support our banana industry with affordable credit, assured inputs and creative marketing; support poultry farming; reintroduce Marketing Boards to help farmers maintain earnings and obtain better prices; improve feeder roads to support agriculture and implement a zero-tolerance approach to praedial larceny.